Alberto Contador has admitted to losing some of the excitement he used to get from cycling but believes he has become a more mature person during his ban for failing a doping test as he prepares to make his return to competition.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, who was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and banned for two years after testing positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol, will take part in the Eneco Tour in Netherlands starting on Monday.
At a news conference on Sunday previewing the event, the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider said it was hard to evaluate how his absence from racing had changed him.
"It's true that in some things it takes away some of the excitement I had eight years ago," he said.
"It also makes you more mature and I see cycling now as a part of my life rather than my whole life.
"I think it will help me confront difficult situations with a lot of pressure.
"I did not want to stop cycling, I switched training bases around, there were days when I had more desire and others less, but I am just as tired as in other years at this stage because I have trained a lot to arrive here in good shape."
Contador is hoping to be part of the Spanish squad for the road world championships in Netherlands in September after competing in the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) later this month.
Asked if he was motivated by feelings of revenge or whether he felt he had anything to prove, he told reporters: "Absolutely not, I just want to enjoy myself.
"And I am enjoying myself a lot in training, sacrificing myself to be in the best possible shape and I hope to continue enjoying myself and that the results will come.
"The most difficult time was the last two years because everything possible was said about me without any limits.
"Thankfully I have my family and friends. Thanks to them I did not have to seek professional help. They were the ones keeping my spirits up."
Contador has always maintained his innocence of deliberate doping, blaming the positive test result on contaminated meat, and he repeated his criticism of cycling's testing regime.
"What is clear is that this rule is obsolete and everyone responsible knows it but they don't do anything to change it," he said.
(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Greg Stutchbury)